Gallic TV exports show growth

French programs increasingly popular in Europe

French TV producers are saying merci beaucoup to their European neighbors, whose appetite for Gallic TV series is creating a mini boon for the local industry.

The latest figures show that €157 million ($213 million) worth of French programs made their way to international TV screens in 2006, TV France International is expected to announce today at a news conference on the final day of the Rendez-Vous French television market here.

Export results for French TV programs rose 4.2% from 2005, according to the study conducted in partnership with state film body the CNC, with presales climbing 10.1% to €42 million ($57 million) and sales rising 2.3% to €115 million ($156.1 million).

The slow but steady sales increase was primarily attributed to the huge popularity of French programs in Western Europe, with €72 million ($97.7 million), or 62.6% of total sales abroad, bought by broadcasters in the region. Central Europe accounted for €9.6 million ($13 million) in sales, Asia €9.3 million ($12.6 million) and North America €14.2 million ($19.3 million).

Germany and Austria are big fans of their French-speaking neighbors, with 23.1% of programs sold to Western Europe landing in those territories thanks to a ubiquity of channels allotting plenty of room for sales from international markets. Among series sold to Western Europe, 18.7% went to Italy, 14.2% to Belgium and 12.7% to Spain, which has been especially active, with a 71% increase in sales from 2005 to 2006.

The Middle East is starting to open up to Western animation production, thanks to the work of TV France International at the Dubai Showcase. Attractive prices are starting to counterbalance strong censorship in the territory.

U.S. sales weren't as strong as in 2005, but those numbers had been abnormally high, according to TV France International's executive director Mathieu Bejot.

"2005 was a bit exceptional for sales to the U.S. thanks to a real peak in animation," Bejot said. "Yet sales are still fairly high if you look at the long-term market."

Part of the increase in volume can be attributed to the rise in production of shorter formats. Although traditionally hesitant in its purchase of French fiction, French-speaking Canada is beginning to buy some series including "Life's So Sweet," a 26-minute Gallic soap opera about love and passion in the heart of the French Riviera.

France Televisions has been successful with its 26-minute adolescent series "Summer Dreams," which aired this year on France 3 and nabbed a 20% audience share in its time slot.

"For young viewers, 26 minutes is a perfect format," said Eric Verniere, head of international sales and co-productions at France Televisions.

Documentaries and informational programs provided 28.5% of total sales, followed by fiction with 22.1%, games and variety shows with 10.1%, news programs with 7.2% and music and theater 4.5%.

TV France is hoping that this year's Rendez-Vous, which wraps tonight in the seaside resort town, will boost 2007 figures and promote sales of Gallic titles in the 52 countries represented by buyers during the 13th annual event.

"People are doing more and more business here. It's more relaxed. Everything's been taken care of — lunches, dinners — so they don't have to worry about anything but screenings and meetings," Bejot said.